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5 takeaways from Yelich's big extension

@williamfleitch
March 3, 2020

Christian Yelich was an excellent player as a Miami Marlin -- over his five years with the franchise, he compiled enough WAR, 18.9, to become the sixth-best player in franchise history -- but it wasn’t until he became a Milwaukee Brewer that he blossomed into an inner-tier superstar. Who can

Christian Yelich was an excellent player as a Miami Marlin -- over his five years with the franchise, he compiled enough WAR, 18.9, to become the sixth-best player in franchise history -- but it wasn’t until he became a Milwaukee Brewer that he blossomed into an inner-tier superstar. Who can blame him for not ever wanting to leave?

Yelich, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, is about to sign an extension that will keep him in Milwaukee through the 2028 season. The reported deal would be, by far, the biggest in Brewers history, worth $215 million, more than double what they gave Ryan Braun in 2011. It assures that, barring injury, Yelich is about to become one of the best 10 players in the history of another franchise. He’s essentially a Brewer for life now.

The deal, coming just less than a year after Mike Trout signed his record extension with the Angels, locks up another MVP to his team for most of this decade. And it changes baseball as we know it, in ways that will filter and expand around baseball for the years to come. Here’s a look at five major takeaways from the big news.

1) The Brewers made sure they’re the Angels rather than the Indians

Before the Angels signed Trout last March, the general consensus was that if they didn’t start winning soon, they were going to have to seriously consider trading their superstar. After all, if you couldn’t assure that you wouldn’t lose Trout for nothing, you had to get something out of him. Ask Boston about this or, better yet, Cleveland, which is currently going through this same conundrum with Francisco Lindor.

The Brewers have been quiet all offseason, leading some to wonder if they weren’t squandering their final two years with Yelich. If they fell out of the race this year, would they have to fathom the Lindor possibility? But now, like with the Angels, the entire equation changes. Knowing that they have Yelich moving forward keeps the onus on the Brewers to win, but it makes them less frantic: Their job is to build a sustainable team around him, rather than scramble to create one out of air this exact second. Trout signing with the Angels showed that he trusted his franchise to be worthy of staying around. Yelich’s signing does the same thing.

2) The Brewers’ National League Central rivals are now on notice

One of the reasons the Cubs and Cardinals -- not the only reason, but maybe the main one -- have been so passive this offseason is because they could get away with it: Their main rivals, each other and the Brewers, were sitting on their hands, as well. (The Reds’ fevered rush of signings makes them a threat, but also speaks to a certain desperation just to reach that particular tier.) But as the Cubs consider trading Kris Bryant , and as the Cardinals have just one All-Star from last year (and plenty of money tied up in players deep into their 30s), the Brewers step up and nail down a superstar in his prime.

The NL Central has gotten used to ebbs and flows among its contenders. The Cardinals are always above .500, but everyone else has loaded, then unloaded, then reloaded, playing the Competitive Window game. The Pirates rose and then they fell; the Cubs fell and rose then fell; the Reds are just now trying to rise after years in the wilderness. Having Yelich tied to the team for the next decade assures the Brewers are officially in this to win this for years to come.

The Cubs and Cardinals can’t wait for the Brewers to take a step backwards now, in the same way that the Rangers and Mariners can’t wait for the Angels to do so. Having a star of this caliber obliges the Brewers to do everything they can do win the NL Central as long as they have Yelich in his prime. The Cubs and Cardinals now, one way or another, make sure they match them for as long as Yelich is in Milwaukee.

3) The Brewers rebuilt the plane while the plane was in the air

When GM David Stearns took over in 2015, he did not, as many GMs and team presidents have done (and as has become common custom), immediately start tearing down and starting over. Instead, the Brewers set about trying to be competitive, increasing talent at the margins and looking for cost-effective, stealth ways to make big moves. This culminated in the Yelich trade and the Lorenzo Cain signing, with Stearns leaping at rare opportunities to get star players at unusually low prices. (Fair to say: The Brewers are not currently missing Lewis Brinson.) The Brewers didn’t take the Cubs' route, or the Astros' route or even the Orioles' route. They just set about getting better, one piece at a time, without hitting some sort of reset button. The result was a 2018 season that left them one game away from the World Series … and having one of the game’s signature superstars locked up for years to come.

4) Brewers fans at last get the superstar they deserve

This might seem impossible for young baseball fans to believe, but there was a time when Braun looked like he was going to become a face of baseball, a smiling, likable, locally beloved superstar for Milwaukee to call its own. But shortly after signing his big deal back in 2011, Braun tested positive for PEDs, and then lied about it, instantly turning him into one of the more disliked figures in baseball and souring what had been a truly beautiful relationship in Milwaukee. Braun has improved his reputation locally and nationally since then, but it still has never been the same: He was supposed to be the next Robin Yount or Paul Molitor, and he wasn’t.

Now the Brewers have their Yount. Yelich hasn’t just emerged as one of baseball’s best players since arriving in Milwaukee, he has become one of the game’s brightest stars, a marquee name capable of being funny in commercials with Cody Bellinger, guest-starring on “Magnum P.I.” and getting in Twitter fights with Yu Darvish.

He’s a forward-facing, top-shelf superstar, one of the best and most popular players in the game, and he is now Milwaukee’s, and Milwaukee’s only. The Brewers have a vastly underrated fanbase, one that routinely draws near among the highest attendance figures in baseball. They haven’t made a World Series in nearly 40 years, and they’ve never won one. And their biggest star is probably still Yount. Until now. Now they have Yelich, the legend they’ve long deserved and now, at last, have.

5) Milwaukee doesn’t seem so small-market now, does it?

It seems strange to think, but it wasn’t long ago that it seemed that every superstar of Yelich’s caliber was destined to play for teams like Milwaukee before inevitably bolting for New York or Boston or Los Angeles, or someplace larger and more exciting. Now, that still happens, of course (ask Giancarlo Stanton, even if the Yankees might want that one back), but largely thanks to the explosion of revenue in baseball over the last decade, teams like the Brewers can now make a big deal like this and no one really bats an eye. All fans really want is for their teams to try to be competitive and, when they have a star like Yelich, one who wants to stay and just desires to be paid the market rate, they don’t have to say goodbye to him when the big city comes calling. The Brewers now don’t have to do that. Yelich is a Brewer for most of the next decade. It feels just, and right.